Who is the most expensive African player of all time?

Which players have broken the African transfer record over the years?

This past window saw the African record not just broken – but smashed. Just like the window before it, the money chucked around for African talent just kept rising – but who currently lays claim to being the most expensive African player of all time?

There’s two ways of approaching this question – firstly, who are the players to have held the title of “Most Expensive African Player of all time”, and secondly, what are the biggest fees received for African players.

Well, first we’ll tackle the holders of the title – but bear with me, as it can get a bit confusing.

Transfer fees are not adjusted for inflation, but there may be discrepancies due to conversions from different currencies.

15th – Anthony Yeboah – £540,000 – 1. FC Saarbrücken to Eintracht Frankfurt (1990)

Yeboah celebrates his goal of the season against Wimbledon.

As one of the first black players in the Bundesliga, Anthony “Tony” Yeboah was subjected to booing and racist abuse from some of his new fans on his debut.

According to TransferMarkt, the £540,000 fee at the time was the highest a club had paid for an African footballer- but Yeboah more than paid for his fee – financially and with his performances.

Before he left to join Leeds for £3.4 million and score those two beautiful goals (and many others), he had become the first African captain of a Bundesliga club, as well as topping the Bundesliga scoring charts twice.

He is still the third highest goalscorer for Ghana, and a cult hero at Leeds United.

It’s a somewhat iffy claim but I cannot find anything to dispute it – so Yeboah sits bottom of our list.

14th – George Weah – £5.85m – Monaco to PSG (1992) / £6.2M PSG to AC Milan (1995)

George Weah
Weah and his Ballon D’or trophy.

Arguably Africa’s greatest player, it is inevitable he’d end up on the list at some point. In fact, he managed to break his own record.

After leaving Monaco and Arsene Wenger behind to link up with PSG, breaking the record in the process, he enjoyed a few years in the French capital before AC Milan tempted him out of the country.

Ballon D’or winner and FIFA World Player of the year in 1995, when he moved for the second time, Weah was truly one of the greatest talents in the world, let alone Africa.

A ruler on the pitch, Weah is currently President of Liberia – but it remains to be seen if he can match the impact he had with a football.

13th – Finidi George – £9m – Ajax to Real Betis (1996)

A stylish Finidi George celebrates his legendary winner at the Bernebeu.
A stylish Finidi George celebrates his legendary winner at the Bernabeu.

Alongside fellow Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu, Finidi George found success in the Netherlands with Ajax, culminating in a Champions League win in 1995.

A year after the amazing feat, the Dutch side found their squad decimated by foreign clubs – Kanu was off to Inter Milan, whilst George was set for Spain.

Reportedly, a verbal agreement was agreed for the winger to join European giants Real Madrid, but the deal fell through, paving the way for the Port Harcourt born attacker to become a cult-hero in Andalucia.

Joining Real Betis for a reported £9m fee, Finidi George was a consistent goal-scorer in La Liga, reaching double figures in almost every campaign. Not bad for a winger!

12th – Jay-Jay Okocha – £14m – Fenerbahce to PSG – (1998)

Jay-Jay Okocha holds aloft his new jersey. Courtesy of PSG.

So good they named him twice! That’s is according to Bolton fans, who became enamoured with the Nigerian trickster.

Following a remarkably similar start to his European career as Tony Yeboah – a spell at 1. FC Saarbrücken before leaving to Eintracht Frankfurt, Okocha picked up the first hefty transfer fee (at the time) when he left Germany for Turkish superclub Fenerbahce.

A £1m investment in the Nigerian quickly turned into a huge profit, as Okocha left for the French capital for a £14m fee. There, he became a mentor for the gifted Ronaldinho, staying for four years before linking up with Sam Allardyce at Bolton.

Probably the best player never to have won CAF’s African Player of the Year, Okocha can boast he was the first recipient of the BBC’s equivalent – and the only player to retain the award, doing so the year after.

11th – Shabani Nonda – £18m – Stade Rennais to AS Monaco (2000)

Shabani Nonda during his Monaco days. Credit to Getty Sport Images.

Burundi born Shabani Nonda racked up a lot of goals and a lot of transfer fees during his career.

Spells in Tanzania and South Africa alerted international scouts of his potential, with FC Zurich swooping into secure his services for a fee of $150,000.

He spent two years in Switzerland before Stade Rennais splashed out £5.5m to bring him to France, where he notched 39 goals in 62 league appearances.

When David Trezeguet departed Monaco, Nonda was identified as a replacement, with the Principality side spending £18m to bring him to the club.

He continued grabbing goals, before moving on a free transfer to Roma. A loan spell at Blackburn Rovers was followed by a stint at Galatasaray, before he retired in 2010.

Despite being born in Burundi, Nonda made 36 appearances for the DR Congo national side, scoring 20 times.

10th – Didier Drogba – £24m – Olympique Marseille to Chelsea FC – (2004)

Drogba signing
Drogba signing on for a second stint at Stamford Bridge. Credit to Chelsea

Chelsea have been chucking transfer fees like this for over a decade now, but at the time, this was big money.

It is hard to argue, however, that a single penny of it was wasted – “the ultimate big game player”, Drogba has scored 10 goals in 10 finals for different clubs, including four FA Cup final goals for the Blues, as well as an equaliser in the Champions League final.

His two stints in London confirm his place as a club legend, as well as being an African Icon in the Premier League – he was the first player from the continent to score 100 goals in the league.

To list his accolades would take ages, so you can read more about them here!

9th – Michael Essien – £24.4m – Olympique Lyon to Chelsea FC – (2005)

Essien signing
Essien pictured after signing for Chelsea. Credit to Chelsea FC

The capture of Michael Essien saw the Ghanaian break two records – Chelsea’s record transfer fee, and the African record – both of which were held by Essien’s new teammate, the aforementioned Drogba.

Both players went on to become mainstays in Jose Mourinho’s dominant side, with Essien’s dominant displays in the Blues’ midfield seeing him a frequent name on the list for the Ballon D’or and FIFA World Player of the Year.

But long and protracted negotiations saw Lyon reject five bids for their star, who had been named Ligue 1 Player of the Year the season before his move.

Essien eventually left London nine years after he arrived, earning multiple League titles and a Champions League winners medal on the way.

8th – Emmanuel Adebayor – £25m – Arsenal to Manchester City – (2009)

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester City Press Conference - Emmanuel Adebayor Signing
Adebayor at his Manchester City presentation. Credit to Manchester City.

Emmanuel Adebayor is a name that instigates many different feelings, depending on which club you support!

After scoring 46 league goals for Arsenal across 104 games, the Togolese striker took the big-money option Manchester City offered him, moving up to the nouveau riche team.

Adebayor got off to a flying start, scoring in each of his first four games – including a goal against former side Arsenal, where he ran the full length of the pitch to gloat in front of the Arsenal fans.

Just two seasons after joining, Roberto Mancini deemed the striker surplus to requirements, sending him out on loan to Real Madrid and Tottenham.

His last Premier League club was Crystal Palace, where he scored the last of his 97 Premier League goals – making him the second highest African goalscorer in Premier League history.

7th – Wilfried Bony – £28m – Swansea City to Manchester City (2015)

Bony after his switch from South Wales to Greater Manchester. Credit to Manchester City.

Wilfried Bony is one of the most expensive African players in accumulative fees alone (£55.4m as of writing) a feat that is certainly helped by this big move.

A ratio of 35 goals in 70 appearances for Swansea was enough to convince City to break the African transfer record again, even though the Ivorian only spent one season at the club.

As soon as Pep Guardiola became manager, the striker was given no chance and sent on loan to Stoke City. In August of 2017, Swansea paid £12m to bring him back to the Liberty Stadium.

6th – Eric Bailly – £30m – Villarreal to Manchester United (2016)

Bailly at his unveiling. Credit to Manchester United

Ivorians in the Premier League have commanded huge fees across the years – and it was no different for Manchester United when they swooped for defender Bailly.

He was Jose Mourinho’s first purchase for the Red Devils, and the centre-back made a flying start to his career in England – picking up multiple man-of-the-match awards and the Premier League Player of the Month for August.

Injuries have halted his appearances in a United shirt, but he does have a League Cup and a Europa League to show for his efforts so far.

5th – Sadio Mane – £36m – Southampton to Liverpool (2016)

Sadio Mane
Mané pictured at the press conference announcing his move. Credit to Liverpool FC.

Eric Bailly’s stint as holder of the most expensive transfer lasted just 27 days, as Liverpool’s capture of the Senegalese winger trumped the £30m United paid for their African star.

Again, Mané proved his worth, scoring the winner away at Arsenal on the opening day of the season. He notched a total of 13 league goals from the wings, picking up Liverpool’s Player of the Year award and a spot in the PFA’s Team of the Year.

However, Mané’s transfer record lasted a year, as the arrival of a new team-mate eclipsed his own transfer.

4th – Mo Salah – £37.8m – AS Roma to Liverpool (2017)

Mo Salah all smiles after a fantastic 2017. Credit:
Mo Salah all smiles after joining Liverpool. Credit:

When the Egyptian star rejoined the Premier League, few would have predicted the impact he’d have. As of writing, Salah sits atop of the goal scoring charts, grabbing 20 goals so far this term.

AS Roma have had to sell key-players to ensure they don’t fall afoul of Financial Fair Play rules, but the Italian giants probably didn’t expect this to be as much as a bargain as it has proved to be.

Just like Mané, Salah’s record was trumped by a future teammate, Naby Keita.

3rd – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – £56m-  Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal (2018)

Aubameyang celebrates his move. Credit:
Aubameyang celebrates his move. Credit:

Right, this is where it gets complicated.

Depending on how you look at it, Aubameyang could be labelled as holding the current transfer record for an African player.

That’s because 2nd and 1st place in this list have a few technicalities attached.

However, “Auba” is the only transfer we can be certain about – Arsenal broke their club record to bring in the Gabonese striker from German giants Borussia Dortmund, splashing out a reported £56m.

On the other hand, again depending on how you look at it, it could be argued Aubameyang can not claim to have ever been the most expensive African – as the Keita deal came before, and is worth more.

Aubameyang was the first African since Tony Yeboah to grab two golden boots in the Bundesliga, and a debut goal for Arsenal is an early indicator that it was worth spending a lot of money on the attacker.

2nd – Naby Keita – £57m (rising to £66m) – RB Leipzig to Liverpool (2017/2018)

Naby Keita on international duty for Guinea. Credit: Mohammed Yattara
Naby Keita on international duty for Guinea. Credit: Mohammed Yattara

Keita isn’t technically 2nd place – yet. A deal was put in place in 2017 to bring the Guinean international to Anfield a year later, so, by June, Keita will definitely be a Liverpool player.

The attacking midfielder was linked with an early switch to Liverpool in the window just gone, but any rumour of a January move was quashed.

1st – Cédric Bakambu – £65m  – Villarreal to Beijing Goun (2018)

Cedric Bakambu

Bakambu’s move confuses everything further – due to separate issues.

In Spain, release causes are triggered by giving the money to the player to do it themselves – just like this case.

However, the Chinese FA has slapped a 100% tax on foreign transfers, meaning Bakambu’s fee could double – catapulting him to a record fee.

Despite Bakambu leaving Villarreal during January, the deal has finally gone through in March – as Beijing Goun tried to negotiate a deal with the FA to reduce the fee.

That didn’t happen, so Bakambu is now Africa’s most expensive player!



Last Updated: 04/02/18 17:15 GMT



One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s